Chamber Four is a fledgling operation which has burst onto the scene with all guns blazing. A visit to their site reveals book reviews plus their reviews of other people’s book reviews. There is a section entitled “Great Reads” which includes, among others, a review of the wonderful 1972 novel Watership Down by Richard Adams. There is a section called “The Best Places to Read Online,” and there is the announcement that the magazine is now accepting submissions to publish their own fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. But, most interestingly, they have recently published their anthology of the best short stories published on the web in 2009 and 2010. And it is a good one.
This anthology includes one of the best short stories I’ve read this year, “Liz Phair and the Most Perfect Sentence,” by Andrea Uptmor, about a young woman who reads Tolstoy and believes her meaning in life is to write and to love her partner, Liz Phair, until she develops writer’s block and the relationship goes on the rocks. Here is an illustrative passage:
There are a lot of different first kisses. In one, I can imagine it happening right there, in the emergency room, at the same time my arm is re-fractured. Liz Phair touching her rainbow mouth to mine at the exact moment of the crunch, so my mind explodes in a fountain of dopamine and adrenaline and serotonin.
Also included is one of the best stories I read in 2009, “Semolinian Equinox,” by Svetlana Lavochkina, a walk on the wild side, Russian style. It concerns the lives and loves of students at Donetsk University in the ‘90’s while they struggle for money and food while trying to attain degrees. This story was also an honorable mention in the Million Writers’ Award.
A stunningly beautiful and poignant story comes from the pen of L.E. Miller, “Peacock,” about a suburban housewife who develops a fascination for an aloof neighbor who tries to socialize her very shy child at the playground while simultaneously fending off any friendly overtures from the rest of the mothers. The woman eventually leaves her husband to live in France, and the housewife seeks to discover why.
For change of pace, try “The Naturalists,” by B.J. Hollars, about a father and son who join a nudist colony, and the father keeps breaking one of the sacred rules: don’t have an erection in company. Things get more complicated when the estranged mother learns of her son’s location and shows up with her 6’9” basketball star boyfriend to re-claim him. Good, light-hearted humor here, which is hard to find in the literary world anymore.
Lastly is the Kafka-like “American Subsidiary,” by William Pierce, a bizarre, tongue-in-cheek account of a bureaucrat who works in an office where everyone is sucking up to a boss who is an example of the Peter Principle—a man who has risen to his level of incompetency. However, reality is a matter of perception in this tale, particularly when the boss dresses nice: “You couldn’t think about the Peter Principle when Herr Halsa wore that suit jacket.”
Of the various online anthologies I have read, this is the best one, and I’m glad they put forth such monumental effort for everyone. One should feel obligated to check it out: just click here: http://chamberfour.com/anthology/